Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Andy Coulson survives - for now

So it it starting to look like my prediction from Thursday morning that Andy Coulson would have to go and soon will not come to pass following the "Hackgate" scandal breaking.

I think I underestimated two things:
  • David Cameron's determination to hold onto his communications chief.
  • The determination of (much of) the press to close ranks (even much of the non-Murdoch press) and dampen this story down.
Apart from The Guardian and The Independent yesterday I struggled to find much coverage in any of the other press. Unsurprisingly The Sun and The Times were quiet on it but much of the other press was too. As Michael Portillo said on This Week on Thursday "Dog does not eat dog". Unless there are more revelations on Sunday then it is now clear that Coulson will survive the weekend.

There are numerous other traps though lying in wait. The first one is at the hastily convened Select Committee hearing on this subject on Tuesday. He needs to do well and be convincing at that. The second is the possibility that one or more of the people who have had their phones allegedly hacked pursue private prosecutions against the NOTW/Murdoch. This would drag the whole thing through court with Mr Coulson doubtless called to give evidence and would provide new fuel on the fire of this story. However that could be a long way off.

Another possibility is that Cameron quietly lines up a replacement in the coming weeks or months and Coulson then appears to go at a time of his own choosing before the General Election. My money is on this as as good as Mr Coulson is, the risk of this story reigniting and also the taint of what has been alleged on a large scale whilst he was the editor of NOTW could be very damaging, especially if new allegations or evidence came out close to or during an election campaign.

So he survives in post for now but I think his longer term prospects have taken a severe blow. Should the Tories win the next election, perhaps now Mr Coulson now won't get the chance to be to Prime Minister Cameron what Alistair Campbell was to Prime Minister Blair.

1 comment:

Stu said...

When you talk about 'the determination of the press to close ranks', I think you forget the fact that there's no evidence against Coulson and no new police investigation to happen.

Without either of those two things, the story is a complete non-starter. Some allegations by a newspaper, without evidence that the police are willing to use in an investigation, is simply not a story that will either ignite the public interest or sell newspapers. It's not so much conspiracy as it is lack of interest.

That's not to say Coulson isn't guilty - he quite possible is, although he's already resigned once over it. But if Brown can escape from the McBride story, because there was no evidence against him, then Coulson is perfectly safe for now.